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11/26/2004

Financial Times on Iran

The FT has an important look at developments on the Iran front, more pessimistic than most:

A deal with Europe committing Iran to freezing sensitive elements of its nuclear programme threatened to unravel yesterday as officials wrangled over final details.
Iran apparently wants "to keep working on a small number of centrifuge machines for experimental purposes, but without using nuclear material," limit the "intrusiveness" of the inspections, and the duration of the freeze on enrichment.
[T]he negotiations revealed a lack of trust on both sides. The US has refused to endorse the agreement, worked out by France, Germany and the UK. A breakdown would leave the Bush administration without an alternative approach, however.
The article highlights administration indecision on Iran policy, exacerbated by the departure of Powell and the elevation of Ms. Cipher, Condi Rice. The confused policy reflects the disarray of hawks, like Danielle Pletka, who refuse to negotiate but who've seen their only policy option, invasion, rendered inoperative by Iraq:
Danielle Pletka, a senior Middle East analyst at the influential neo-conservative American Enterprise Institute, this week sketched out what a second Bush administration's policy towards Iran might look like.

It did not go unnoticed among her audience of experts that she avoided the words "regime change". At odds with other neo-conservatives, who for years have described the Islamic regime as one ready to fall like a rotten fruit, Ms Pletka said a revolution was not on the cards.

Policy to date had been characterised by "frustrated concern and congressionally mandated sanctions", said Ms Pletka. She admitted this was not good enough: "Facing something with nothing is not an effective alternative in foreign policy."

The administration should not get dragged into bargaining with Iran over "incremental" steps, she said, as it had with North Korea. Instead it should consider a Libya-type offer of a "grand bargain".

In exchange for handing over all weapons of mass destruction and halting support for "terrorist" groups, the US should be prepared to renew diplomatic relations and remove unilateral sanctions. There would be no negotiations, she said.
Update, 11/28/04 3:44 PM EST: The BBC reports that Iran has "promise[d] to include 20 centrifuges [allegedly for research] in a freeze on nuclear activities." "[I]nclusion of the centrifuges in the freeze could save Iran from being referred to the UN Security Council, which could impose sanctions on Tehran."

 

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